Search Term Sampler: “Late August”

The term that led some anonymous seeker to my site: margaret atwood sex plums exploding

That sounds exciting! I’ve definitely written about plums before, and Margaret Atwood does write some good food scenes, but I’ve never written about the poem that I think this person was looking for. It’s a good poem for the end of summer: rife with dropping fruits, ripe to bursting, against a twilight backdrop and scored by the sound of crickets. There certainly is something sexy about the syrupy fruits, echoed by the mysterious flesh on flesh that moves at the end of the poem. But every luscious phrase is paired with another that goes a step too far, from sweet to cloying and ripe to rotten. As Wallace Stevens says, “Death is the mother of beauty”: the very thing that makes late summer fruit appealing is the thing that will eventually destroy it. The poem’s reassurance that “there is no / hurry” rings false when it’s clear that we don’t have all the time in the world in this golden preautumn dusk.

I don’t want to ruin it for you. You could also read the poem out loud and linger over the luscious consonant blends, ignoring the march of time, which is what I intend to do. Happy Friday!

“Late August” by Margaret Atwood

This is the plum season, the nights
blue and distended, the moon
hazed, this is the season of peaches

with their lush lobed bulbs
that glow in the dusk, apples
that drop and rot
sweetly, their brown skins veined as glands

No more the shrill voices
that cried Need Need
from the cold pond, bladed and urgent as new grass

Now it is the crickets
that say Ripe Ripe
slurred in the darkness, while the plums

dripping on the lawn outside
our window, burst
with a sound like thick syrup
muffled and slow

The air is still
warm, flesh moves over
flesh, there is no

hurry.

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